Nothing has been more challenging for us at Team Better Block than the first community meeting in San Antonio for the Alamo Plaza project. We are only as good as our partners on any project we do and the group we encountered when beginning this project was fractured to say the least. The combination of multiple decade long stalled historical interpretation projects and stacks of divergent plans for the plaza had people on-guard. We had seen this before. Plans made from one perspective, usually design based and missing the local flavor, but the Alamo was going to be special. We sought to test how we could interpret the 250+ year history while adding city comforts found in other plazas, such as shade, seating and food.
We formed teams from the over 65 volunteers to tackle historical interpretation, streetscaping and food and entertainment. We mixed Alamo Plaza veterans like the Sons of the Republic with emerging downtown leaders from LOOP and challenged them to work together and create new ways to interpret history, like the ghost gate.
We strategically positioned cultural interpretation in hopes of visitors and participants in the Better Block to understand better the vast history and importance of Alamo Plaza to San Antonio and Texas history. Specifically, the overlap of Coahuiltecan/Apache story teller Isaac Cardenas with Texas Native songwriter KR Wood and special guest Carolyn Cotton Crockett, third grandaughter of Davy Crockett was a moment to remember.
Smaller details of the project like putting out games, provided by volunteers such as Kelly Beevers made the space more livable.
Team Better Block will produce a final report in the coming month detailing what worked and what didn’t from the weekend experiment. We want to thank our partners once again. You all did a great job! You showed that the multiple groups that love the Alamo, San Antonio and Texas can come together. Remember these new partnerships, continue to agitate for change, test more ideas and be open to compromise.
Thank you again to all our partners!
Join the Scavenger Hunt on Friday, August 17. The free, self-guided Scavenger Hunt will take you to places in the plaza that you may not have realized were part of the original plaza. The Hunt can be completed solo, with a partner or as a team. A smartphone will be useful. Several establishments you’ll visit will have happy hour prices. This isn’t a race, rather a fun/educational way to explore the plaza so feel free to take your time and enjoy the hunt! The Hunt will start/stop at the gazebo in Alamo Plaza.
Complete the Scavenger Hunt and be entered into a raffle to win one of 30+ prizes! Prizes include tickets to various attractions, including IMAX Movie Theatre, SeaWorld & Aquatica, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Witte Museum, Splashtown, Botanical Gardens and more. Or, win a Hard Rock Cafe gift card or downtown narrated trolley tour!
The first 100 registrants will receive a goody bag. You can pre-register on-line (recommended), or you can register on-site between 5:30-6:30 pm.
Register NOW at: http://alamoplazabetterblock.eventbrite.com/
First, volunteers are still needed for August 17th from 1pm to 4pm and August 18th 7am to 9am and 1pm to 4pm. Meet at the Alamo Plaza bandstand and be prepared to make history!
The Alamo has a complex history of development as illustrated by author and artist George Nelson in the illustrations below. Much of the development around Alamo Plaza (Church of San Antonio de Valero and the surrounding grounds within the 1836 wall) has been dictated by commercial interest and government ordinances.
This weekend San Antonio will see a re imagined Alamo Plaza that takes elements of history and mixes them with city comforts like seating, shade, food and fountains.
Ask a visitor or maybe even a San Antonion on the street where the Alamo is and they will likely point toward the church, but Alamo Plaza is much more. The orientation of visitors should be from the original gate entrance and further back from the church as illustrated below:
To make this happen the Better Block volunteers needed to reconstruct the Main Gate to the Mission. The Gate volunteer Team lead by Stephen Dyer and Brian Garrison of Garrison General Contractors with guidance from Bob Benevides of the San Antonio Living History Association and L.K. Travis an Architect steeped in Alamo history set-out to build this large fortified gate. The Better Block had the volunteers, knowledge, permits and even the space to build it, but we were missing one key element, supplies. Building a better block relies on the community for vision, guidance and resources and sometimes faith.
In order to build the sixteen foot tall and almost twenty foot long gate the team needed over $500 in supplies. Everyone had expended attempts for donated materials and with less than twelve hours till build time the gate was in jeopardy. Bob Benevides and the Sons of the Republic of Texas saved the day with a last minute fund raiser and the piles of wood and screws made it in time! Pictured below is one of the entrance walls to the gate being carried by Garrison construction employees.
Going even further back in time, the volunteer crew began work on remaking an early Texas settler structure called a Jacal. The structure was designed by John Burleson of Overland Partners and will be positioned in Plaza de Valero and act as a jumping off point for the historical interpretation tours.
Using cedar posts and a lot of elbow grease Buddy Howard of Garrison General Contractors lead a group of volunteers on the build.
To make the Plaza more hospitable to visitors and locals alike, TBG Partners lead a group of volunteers on constructing seating and tables to accommodate at least two hundred people on the plaza. The team is re creating the atmosphere seen around the Chili Queens at the turn of the century. By using reclaimed Pecan wood from the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and pallet wood donated by local companies the team has created a 100% sustainable product that is historically accurate and comfortable!
The historical interpretation of the Alamo will go digital this weekend as well. Bibisi has completed the virtual tour of the Plaza.
Dinner by the San Antonio Chef Coalition is taking shape, get your tickets now!
A Scavenger hunt too! http://alamoplazabetterblock.
A big thank you to all our partners!
Thank You SA 2020 for all the volunteers!
Volunteers still needed for August 17th from 1pm to 4pm and August 18th 7am to 9am and 1pm to 4pm. Meet at the Alamo Plaza bandstand and be prepared to make history!
The Alamo Plaza Better Block project is beginning to take shape with many local organizations and individuals taking part to help transform the area into a more inviting, historically appropriate and active public space.
In our last Better Block project, TBG Partners brought out a team to help build a series of outdoor seating combined with drum-barrel planters. This time around, they’re going to recreate some of the historic tables and chairs used by the historic Chili Queens who used to set out furniture for people travelling through the missions and plazas and provide food. Also, Preferred Landscape and Lighting will provide plants and foliage to the area.
Renowned local chef, Andrew Weissman, will be pulling out the stop to help create a romantic dinner and wine experience on Alamo Plaza. Andrew is teaming up with the Chef’s Coalition to provide an exciting menu for the evening of August 17th from 9pm to 11pm.
Alamo Beer Company will also be on hand to help celebrate Davy Crockett’s 226th Birthday. The legendary soldier and politician lost his life at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Famously before leaving Tennessee, Crockett was quoted as saying, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas!”
The ultimate goal is to create an inviting, romantic outdoor cafe experience so that residents and visitors feel welcome to sit and enjoy the area for longer periods of time.One of the major findings of the Project for Public Space’s research about the plaza is that people come, see the mission and leave because there are not enough gathering places and activities. The cafe will keep people there so we can tell the amazing story of the Alamo.
To tell the story we will have a lantern tour on Friday night lead by Bob Benavides of the San Antonio Living History Association, kiosks developed by Overland Partners and Lake Flato will be staffed by the Sons of the Republic of Texas on both Friday and Saturday and Native American story teller Isaac Cardenas will share Coahuiltecan/Apache history.
The technology firm Bibisi will be launching an interpretive QR code tour of the Alamo Plaza grounds. The idea is to get more people to understand the scale of the Alamo and the importance of its history.
Stephen Dyer of Garrison General Contractors will be leading a partial rebuild of the Alamo’s 1836 front gates using a ghost structure that will outline the original footprint of the mission’s entry point.
On Saturday, August 18th, between 9AM and 1PM, Casa Navarro will lead an adobe wall building workshop spotlighting the materials and methods that would have been used to build many of the state’s historic mission walls.
To help with the pre-build of the project, join us on August 10th from 5PM to 10PM, and August 11th from 9AM to 1PM at the former Express department store, at the corner of Alamo Plaza and Commerce Street in the Rivercenter Mall. The facility has air conditioning, and truck access to make it easy for volunteers to participate. Teams will be constructing street furniture, planters, and more. Sign up here to volunteer.
We’ll be back in town on August 10th and 11th to begin building items for the Better Block event. Everything from tables, chairs, kiosks, and more will be created on site for the weekend. We’ve also assembled a “wish list” of materials we’d like to have available for the Better Block. Let us know if you have access to any of the above materials to help us create a great project!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional questions.